For just the third time in the past two decades, the Toledo girls soccer program will be under new management come the fall.
But while Horst Malunat revitalized the Riverhawk program and Noel Vazquez took it to new heights, Courtney Moore will bring a completely different sort of expertise to the role: that of an alum.
“It feels pretty good, it’s good to be back,” Moore said. “It feels like it’s going to be something new but also something old.”
Moore is far from a stranger to Ted Hippi Field, her new coworkers, and her compatriots in the area. Before she graduated from Toledo in 2016, she had both current athletic director Grady Fallon — in middle school — and Malunat — in high school — as teachers. She started her high school career under Malunat and finished it playing for Vazquez, then just a 21-year old getting his feet under him.
After graduation, she went to play at Centralia College, for both Malunat and Clarence Gunderson, the Blazers’ current coach.
On top of that, her main assistant this season will be her former teammate at Toledo, Madison Higgenbottom, and her father, who spent a spell leading the Riverhawks’ girls basketball team, will be helping out.
So yeah, there won’t be a whole lot of time needed for introductions this season.
“I had an amazing time at Toledo, it helped me build my own career,” Moore said. “Being back, it’s something I want to do for them, and those girls that want that as well.”
Moore began her coaching career last season at Toutle Lake. Trying to keep a short-handed team afloat through tough conditions and a rough season, the Ducks went winless, but Moore earned Central 2B League Coach of the Year honors for her efforts.
With Vazquez leaving the Riverhawks to coach at Centralia, and Toutle Lake looking at the possibility of another sparse turnout, Moore decided to make the jump back home.
It’s a path Fallon is familiar with; after graduating from Toledo in 1994 and playing college basketball at Central Washington, he came back to coach at Morton before returning to Cheese Town.
The Riverhawks’ staff list is chock full of more alums, with Mack Gaul, Jeff Davis, and Kyle Askin coaching baseball, softball, and cross country, respectively, while Bryan Layton, Tony Zamorano, and Cameron Konigberger are all assistants and Pam Olmstead coaches the middle school volleyball team.
“It’s nice to have Toledo people, you kind of know their background and what they’re going to bring to the table,” Fallon said.
Despite Vazquez running with as few as 11 players last season — and eight of those being seniors — Moore said her numbers have been high at early doors. Despite having few organized practices before the dead period began on Aug. 1, she’s looking at as many as 18 players at the moment.
On top of coaching the high school squad, she said she’s hoping to keep numbers up by reinstating a program of youth camps to build interest among elementary and middle school students.
In the short term, she’s got to wait through the dead period, then race through the hectic two weeks of fall camp before opening the season Sept. 8 at Rochester.
On the plus side, she knows the area well enough to hit the ground running.
“I’m super excited just to get back and get started playing and practicing again,” Moore said. “I’m excited too because I’ve got a great group of girls. Last year, Noel did a good job of building a program in general, so being able to take it over is awesome.”